Book Review: Building a Life-changing small group Ministry By Bill Donahue
This training manual, “Building a Life-changing small group Ministry,” is a big picture book, looking at the forest, yet does a great job of distinguishing between the oaks and maple trees. It deals with the overview of building a small group ministry, in contrast to just leadership. It exhorts the reader to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his ministry. It helps the reader gain insight into prominent small group problems and develop a strategy for building a small group ministry.
Donahue addresses “Ministry Clarity” from years of experience and practice. He assists in developing an operational philosophy of ministry. His chapter on “Point Leadership” is a good lead in to his small group book, “Leading Life-Changing Small Groups.” Using the example of Jethro’s counsel to Moses to establish structure, Donahue assists small group leadership to not let small groups happen by accident, but to be intentional with the organism of small groups. I appreciate his emphasis on nurturing over mentoring, because every leader is going to get discouraged working with people trying to help them grow. The enemy does not want people to grow up, so there will be plenty of distractions leading to discouragement. It’s best to have a coaching staff to build up the small group leaders. They will as they communicate, counsel, hold accountable and model encouragement.
Donahue has an excellent approach under “Connection Strategy.” He gives several structures, ideas and examples of what has worked for various churches. In a later chapter, “Measuring Progress,” he provides tremendous evaluation questions and charts to analyze the direction and momentum of a small group ministry. Then he gives effective suggestions on discerning a wise course of action to proceed.
In succeeding chapters, Donahue expounds on the practical requirements and implementation of a small group ministry. The reality is, small groups that are oriented to life transformation can break the mold of sedentary church life. His chapter on “Measuring Progress” gives a remarkable assessment and evaluation guideline a church can use to objectively measure where the church is and therefore where it needs to go. His chapter on “Leading Change: Breaking through Barriers” exposes the certainty of existing barriers or that rise up as the enemy will not want transformation in the heart of believers. And finally, his last chapter on “Strategic Planning” lays out key questions to assist any leadership team in overcoming and implementing real change that can work.
This is a must read for background, vision and planning in building a small group ministry. While it does not provide a verse by verse support for everything mentioned, the practical suggestions are there for employing what could be put into operation – personalized for your church. The key is leadership support. Do not try to implement small groups without the Senior Pastor’s backing. Unity of the Spirit in God’s ministry is more important than pushing an agenda.